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Competing with heroes

When we took on the Domino’s advertising and digital business in 2007, one of our first assignments was to redesign They were last in the category to get into online ordering. Both Pizza Hut and Papa John’s were there first, but no one had nailed it. It was all radio buttons and check boxes. A total chore. We saw it as an opportunity to reinvent the category and create outrageous business results.

Our vision was simple. Steal from the best. Be the Amazon of food ordering. One thing we loved about Amazon was that their initial ambition was to be the best way to buy books anywhere not just online. Gigantic but straightforward thinking. Hulu was another that borrowed from their mission, successfully (be the best way to watch premium content online). We believed that if we could become ‘the best way to order food’ anywhere, on or offline, that we could do big things as well. Amazon owned “1 click ordering.” Who owned “1/2 click ordering?”

But it wasn’t just a matter of making a super personalized, easy-to-use, and fast ecommerce site. We wanted it to be fun and surprising and uniquely Domino’s. It needed to be inherently shareable, differentiated in the category, and something that people wanted to return to time and time again. So we invented the visual pizza builder, a dynamic tool that allowed users to customize their pizza, and then struck real gold with the creation of the Pizza Tracker, a tracking tool that hooked into the Domino’s POS and enabled consumers to track the progress of their online orders in real time.

Fast forward a few years and is now the 4th largest ecommerce platform on the internet behind Amazon, Office Depot, and Staples, in terms of total transaction volume, 25% of all sales come through online ordering, we’ve moved from 3rd to 1st in terms of online order share, and profits through the first half of the year hit $47.1MM, up 23 percent from a year ago. Generating business results for our clients is what it’s all about, and it’s a great thrill, but it’s also exciting to be sharing company with one of our acknowledged heroes, Amazon. Additionally, our mobile site for the brand was recently recognized by Mashable as one of their five favorite UIs of 2010. Others on the list included Google and Twitter. Another big honor for us and the brand. But also something that makes sense.

By and large advertisers get written off by the Web 2.0 community as capable of creating groundbreaking applications. I think that’s going to change. From 2000-2004, marketers were doing many of the most interesting things on the Web. It was the heyday of the micro-site, and Nike and Burger King were two brands that especially stood out to me. But marketers lost their way, fell in love with making heavy Flash animations, and banners that no one clicks on. Web 2.0 snuck in and introduced concepts such as UGC, digital utility, APIs, location-based services, and social networks. They changed things over night, and online user behavior and expectations changed with it. People wanted more than what online advertising was offering (essentially interactive versions of TV ideas). They wanted fast, personalized experiences that made life more convenient, helped them be a little more famous, entertained them in two minute doses, and connected them to their favorite people and content. Web 2.0 was about service not brand message. And many in the marketing community fell behind. The only people really seeing and using the work were agency award show judges.  

But things have changed. The best marketers now understand how to use utility and service to influence consideration, create lasting relationships with customers, and drive real business change. They understand that marketing works best when it’s built into the product. From Nike Plus to Fiat Ecodrive to Pizza Tracker, the Old Spice campaign, American Express’ OPEN Forum, and Vail’s EpicMix, the work is making news, has become more service oriented, and more intelligently designed to fit into people’s digital lives today. The reasons? We now have world-class standards developers, a much more evolved understanding of how to integrate creative technologists into our organizations, a better grasp on the transformative power of social media and transparency, and more APIs at our disposal. Most importantly, great marketers know how to change the cultural conversation around products, build brands, and make them famous.  They know how to do more than just make things functional. They know how to make them impossible to ignore.

It’s an exciting time to be working in advertising. We’re inventing products not just messages, competing with our digital heroes, getting great results, and changing the perception of what an advertising agency is allowed to do. There’s always going to be a huge need for great storytellers in this business. Video is just such an undeniably, powerful medium, and one that’s still growing online. But the agencies that can figure out how to create cultures of inventing and making stuff will be much better positioned to create real business change for brands. Invention is the new interactive.

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  1. winstonbinch posted this